A couple of months ago, at a dinner with my colleagues at the job I just left, I happened to sit next to an editorial board member who lives in Chicago. In fact, she has lived in Chicago all her life. Something in her earthy and warm manner reminded me. I mentioned that I am a big fan of Mr. Ebert, especially since he started writing ferociously after he lost his voice to cancer and subsequent surgery.
"We are very proud of him," she said. "He is like our favorite son."
"He is a national treasure," I replied. "A national treasure."
Every other article on his blog left me with tears streaming down my face. A clear, strong, honest, and untainted voice. Added to these are his lack of cynicism and preachiness, his generosity and kindness. He makes me feel better about humanity. He makes me a better person.
Any random entries would serve as fine examples of his writing and his person:
Here's Another Fine Mess
We could learn to open the damn windows when it's a mild day outside. All of this would only be the beginning. Big changes are coming, sooner than we want. They have nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. They have to do with learning to live without greed--in our personal lives, in our corporations, in our government.
How Do They Get to Be That Way?
When I proposed marriage to Chaz, it was because of the best possible reason: I wanted to be married to this woman. Howard Stern asked me on the radio one day if I thought of Chaz as being black every time I looked at her. I didn't resent the question. Howard Stern's gift is the nerve to ask personal questions. I told him, honestly, that when I looked at her I saw Chaz. Chaz. A fact. A person of enormous importance to me. Chaz. A history. Memories. Love. Passion. Laughter. Her Chaz-ness filled my field of vision. Yes, I see that she is black, and she sees that I am white, but how sad it would be if that were in the foreground. Now, with so many of my own family dead, her family gives me a family, an emotional home I need. Before our first trip out of town, she took me home to meet her mother.
I believe at some point in the development of healthy people there must come a time when we instinctively try to understand how others feel. We may not succeed. There are many people in this world today who remain enigmas to me, and some who are offensive. But that is not because of their race. It is usually because of their beliefs.